Staceyann Chin’s story steals hearts in 'Motherstruck!'
Staceyann Chin performed "Motherstruck!" at the Hop Wednesday night.
Wednesday night in Moore Auditorium, the audience rose to its feet as Staceyann Chin stood proudly in the center of the stage, her feet spread wide apart, her fists thrust high into the air and her face filled with raw emotion. Chin, fresh off giving a rousing performance of her critically acclaimed one-woman show “Motherstruck!,” accepted her standing ovation with a roar of glee, eliciting yet more laughter from an audience that had been chuckling at her jokes all night long.
“Motherstruck!” chronicles Chin’s quest to become pregnant despite being a financially insecure, single lesbian without adequate health insurance. The play, charged with humor from beginning to end, is just as serious and empowering as it is amusing.
Chin’s monologue begins with a vivid description of her childhood in Jamaica, where she was abandoned by her parents and raised by her verbally and physically abusive great aunt. Her education at a prestigious all-girls school eventually leads to Chin’s realization that she is gay.
Disturbed by the rampant homophobia in Jamaica at that time, Chin moves to New York City, where she becomes involved with the rapidly growing slam poetry scene, developing a deep friendship with a gay man named Peter.
Chin and Peter, united by their desire to start a family, marry at city hall, but things quickly go awry when Peter is diagnosed with cancer and eventually dies. Chin is left in an endless cycle of breakups, failed sperm donations and financial struggles with her insurance company as she continues her quest to bear a child.
Prior to the performance, Susan Mikulay, co-producer of “Motherstruck!,” explained to the audience that this performance was not one that the audience could simply sit back, relax and enjoy. She urged the audience to “lean in, engage.”
When Chin finally undergoes a treatment that successfully renders her pregnant, she raises her hands to the heavens with joy: “It’s Mother’s Day, I’m pregnant, and I could not imagine a better thing to be.”
After undergoing a strenuous pregnancy and a grueling labor, Chin gives birth to a baby girl, who she names Zuri. Chin quickly realizes that motherhood is much harder than she expected it to be, and she is constantly wracked by the fear that she is not doing right by her child.
She visits Jamaica and Germany in search of the guidance of her great aunt and her mother only to find that neither of them can offer her the perfect solution she is looking for. Chin returns to Brooklyn, and upon realizing how happy Zuri is there, she decides to start the process of getting her American citizenship.
The play concludes with Chin offering some final words of wisdom.
“No one has the definitive manual on parenting. Everyone is just doing the best they can,” Chin said.
Chin then races to the forefront of the stage, arms raised above her head as she wishes for her daughter “to fly again, phoenix, bigger and brighter than everything she ever thought she could be.”
Chin’s magnetic personality shines through every line of the play, as it should. Her work as an activist on behalf of LGBTQIA people, for which she has been honored with several awards including the 2007 Power of the Voice Award from the Human Rights Campaign and the 2008 Honors from the Lesbian AIDS Project, lends an authenticity to her work.
Chin is not shy about defending her beliefs; in fact, she sees her opinions about the world as a crucial element of her ability to make art. In a visit to Professor Laurie Churba’s “Contemporary Practices in US Theater” class on Tuesday, she stated, “I come at my work as an activist…If there was nothing to fight against, I don’t know if I would find art that interesting.”
It is this raw passion that seemed to evoke such a positive response from the audience on Wednesday.
Monik Walters ’19 felt that the show was honest and inspiring.
“It felt like nothing was held back...It was sort of like living through that experience with her,” Walters said. “Feeling what she felt in certain moments is very, very important in how special the performance was.”
In a post-performance discussion held with Chin and audience members, Chin described her style.
“I’m a soldier of the truth. The act of writing, the act of telling stories, is the weapon of my choice,” Chin said.
Dartmouth Centers Forum put on “Motherstruck!” as parts of its theme “Protest and Activism: Insisting on Change.”
Correction appended (Sept. 23, 2016):
Chin's daughter is named Zuri. The article previously stated that her name was Yuri.